Man accused of driving into Belfast living room pleads guilty
BELFAST — A man accused of driving into the living room of a downtown Belfast home last summer pleaded guilty to the charges against him in Waldo County Unified Criminal Court May 14.
Leonid Richter, 22, was charged with operating under the influence, driving with a suspended license, eluding an officer, reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, driving to endanger, aggravated criminal mischief, and criminal speed as a result of the July 1 incident, which occurred around 1 a.m. Richter was also issued a summons for failure to stop at a stop sign.
The plea is part of a deferred disposition which could result in some of the charges against him being dismissed should he be able to complete his period of deferment successfully.
Richter will be subject to conditions during his deferred disposition, which will end May 10, 2022. Some of these conditions include not possessing or using alcohol or illegal drugs. He will also be subject to searches of his person, vehicle, and residence at any time without articulable suspicion or probable cause.
If Richter is able to complete his period of deferment successfully, counts 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 will be dismissed. The sentence on count 5 (operating under the influence with one prior) will be a fine of $700, a three-year license suspension, followed by probation for one year. The sentence for count 6 (driving to endanger) will be a $575 fine and 30-day license suspension. If Richter is successful there is also a possibility that his order of restitution will be less than the $153,866.21 he will have to pay should he fail.
Should he fail to meet any of his conditions, Richter will be sentenced on all seven counts named in the indictment.
Richter was spotted not stopping at a stop sign at the intersection of Main and Front streets by patrolling Belfast Police Officer Lew Dyer, who immediately activated his lights. This reportedly caused Richter to speed away, leading Dyer on what Police Chief Mike McFadden then characterized as a “short but dangerous chase.”
Richter went through another stop sign at the intersection of Front and Miller streets before he cut across Commercial Street and onto Bay View Street.
Due to the alleged high-speed at which Richter was traveling, when Bay View Street ended at a T intersection less than a mile later, McFadden said Richter had no choice but to continue on his path, which led directly into the living room of a residence on Condon Street.
Though no one was injured in the home, a victim impact statement given to the court revealed the effect the crash has had on the owners of the home.
The husband and wife owners were hosting their son’s family who was visiting from another state on the night of the incident. That included two grandchildren aged eight and four.
The letter reads that the man and his adult son had been sitting where the truck entered just 20 minutes before the crash, and that based on the chair he was sitting in, he almost certainly would have died had he not vacated the area prior to the incident.
“I stood shocked at what I was seeing and ran downstairs to see police cars, guns, etc. I listened while my son and wife were screaming in horror not understanding what just happened. The impact was such a shock that it was felt many homes away from us and neighbors gathered outside. I will never forget the screaming and uncontrollable distraught sound of [my wife] calling for me, knowing what was up front was bad and realizing that it could be the worst for me....,” the victim impact statement reads in part.
“I have gone through many phases of grief with this incident,” the letter later reads, “I have gone from shock, to anger to despair. These experiences cannot be taken away from my family but I hope and pray that there is something good to come of this tragedy and that is my ask of the court. I ask that this sentencing be what is necessary to be sure that this is rock bottom for Leo and this is the last incident for him.”
A person must enter a plea of guilty for a crime which is eligible for a deferred disposition under section 1348 of the Maine Criminal Code.
According to this section, “the court may order sentencing deferred to a date certain or determinable and impose requirements upon the person, to be in effect during the period of deferment, considered by the court to be reasonable and appropriate to assist the person to lead a law-abiding life.”
This section also notes that “For purposes of a deferred disposition, a person is deemed to have been convicted when the court imposes the sentence. Notwithstanding Title 15, section 1003, subsection 9, prior to sentence imposition, preconviction bail applies to the person.”
Some of the court-imposed deferment requirements include refraining from criminal conduct, which can include a requirement that the person pay an administrative supervision fee for the term of the deferment.
With regard to the court hearing as to final disposition, section 1348-B states in part:
“If at the conclusion of the period of deferment and prior to sentence imposition the attorney for the State in writing moves the court to allow the person to withdraw the plea of guilty and the defendant in writing agrees to such withdrawal, the court may, without a hearing on final disposition and in the absence of the person, grant the attorney for the State's motion and allow the person to withdraw the plea. Following such court action, the attorney for the State shall dismiss the pending charging instrument with prejudice.”
Erica Thoms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org